Grant gets tough as Chelsea bid to retain League Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Avram Grant is developing a ruthless streak to match his predecessor and it could prove the decisive factor in Sunday's League Cup final against Tottenham

Updated: February 25, 2008 16:43 IST
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Avram Grant will never hog the headlines like Jose Mourinho, but the Chelsea manager is developing a ruthless streak to match his predecessor and it could prove the decisive factor in Sunday's League Cup final against Tottenham.

While Mourinho's volcanic temper was always on the verge of erupting at any moment, Grant has seemed happy not to rock the boat since replacing the Portuguese coach in September.

That perceived passivity was portrayed as a fear of upsetting the assorted egos jostling for star-billing in the Stamford Bridge dressing room. But the reality appears rather different.

Grant left out captain John Terry and star midfielder Frank Lampard for Tuesday's Champions League draw at Olympiakos and is keeping the club's most iconic figures sweating over their places for the Wembley showpiece.

Lampard looks likely to return to the starting line-up but Terry, only just back from an ankle injury, could be sidelined by the impressive form of Brazil centre-back Alex.

It is a gamble that could make or break Grant's Chelsea reign. If Spurs win on Sunday with Terry watching from the bench, the Israeli would be left in a precarious position.

Yet he remains impressively single-minded about the task in front of him.

"We don't need to kill the ghost of Jose Mourinho because he did a good job," Grant said. "On Sunday, it is not me that I need to worry about.

"I am the boss and the boss needs to see what is good for the club. I don't think players are computers, you need to respect them but I have to take a decision that is good for the club; long and short term.

"Frank and John were injured but I don't intend to punish any player that wants to play.

"Rewarding players is not the main thing but I am thinking about that. It is not an easy decision.

"John is a great captain even when he is not playing. He is also a great defender but it is not an easy decision because Alex and Ricardo Carvalho were very good.

"John, before his injury, was excellent and in training is very good, so it is a very hard decision."

It is safe to assume Grant hasn't taken quite so long to ponder who should lead the attack for Chelsea.

Didier Drogba has developed a valuable knack of grabbing the spotlight on the game's grandest stages. He has scored in Chelsea's last three cup final appearances, including a double to win the League Cup final against Arsenal last season.

The Ivory Coast striker, who also bagged the winner in the FA Cup final against Manchester United, is determined to be the main man again.

"I want to score in the final again. I have scored in all the finals Chelsea have played so far," Drogba said. "I am a big game player."

Drogba could play alongside Nicolas Anelka in a partnership that cost Chelsea a combined 39 million pounds, but Tottenham defender Jon Woodgate believes Tottenham boast an even more valuable strike-force.

Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane have scored 36 goals between them this season and Tottenham's hopes of winning their first silverware since 1999 rest on the duo firing again on Sunday.

"At the moment I don't think there is a better striking partnership in England than Keane and Berbatov," Woodgate said. "No pair score more goals than them.

"Any defence that comes up against them is going to have their hands full, including Chelsea. They just click and it's because they are both top players.

"Robbie can play with anyone, he can adapt his game and Berba is the same. The two of them have terrific movement and can score goals."

Spurs finally put to bed their woeful record against Arsenal when they beat the Gunners in the semi-finals, but now they have to overcome another dispiriting sequence.

Juande Ramos's team have won just two of their last 42 meetings with Chelsea. It is an astonishing run and Ramos admits the Blues will be favourites on Sunday.

"We know Chelsea are a good team and probably go into the final as favourites because they are higher up in the league table as us," he said.

"But anything can happen in football and we need to play with the maximum level of concentration."

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